Mystery and Disquieting Stillness Pervade the Surreal, Conceptual Photos by Oleg Oprisco
Throughout Russia’s war, photographer Oleg Oprisco (previously) has remained in his native Ukraine creating works that reflect the unjust aggression and its devastating effects. Oprisco is known for his conceptual shots that involve elaborately constructed props and scenes that capture his distinct sense of surreality. Relying on neutrals and subdued tones rather than a bold color palette, the mysterious, dreamlike images tend to center on a single figure within a quiet and unoccupied landscape.
In one recent photo directly addressing the war, a woman stands in the center of a deserted cobblestone street, her architectural backpack glowing with light. The poignant shot references the millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, and a similar image of a figure sheltering a dog from the rain speaks to the countless animals now struggling to survive without their human companions.
All of Oprisco’s works are available as prints. For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his process and sets, check out his Instagram.
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Composed Photographic Works by Kylli Sparre Consider Restriction and Movement
A sense of confinement pervades Kylli Sparre’s most recent photographic works, which center on figures trapped in clear vessels, encircled by narrow pools, or enclosed in empty concrete rooms. These surreal, claustrophobic images depart from Sparre’s otherwise energetic shots that tend to position women and young girls in motion, whether leaping in the air or sprinting through a house trailed by a swath of white fabric. The Tallinn, Estonia-based fine art photographer (previously) tells Colossal that the recurring theme of physically constraining her subjects was unintentional and likely informed by the limitations of the last few years.
In her practice, Sparre continues to explore the possibilities of the medium through digital manipulation, collage, exposure time, and movements that reflect her background in ballet. You can find more of her conceptual photos on her site and Instagram.
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Anthropomorphic Interventions in the Landscape by Estelle Chrétien Playfully Examine Rural Life
For artist Estelle Chrétien, the expansive lawns, fields, and wooded ravines around her home in Nancy, France, and other parts of Europe become sites of mischievous mixed-media interventions. Through a playful approach that she refers to as gauillant, akin to the feeling of playing in the mud or jumping in puddles, the works develop through chance encounters with the landscape and objects within it. Displayed in an “open-air” exhibition style, her pieces can be encountered by viewers in a similar way, with the potential to surprise and delight.
Chrétien is particularly interested in rural and natural places and examines the way we interact with those environments through an often humorous or ironic anthropomorphizing of her surroundings. Naturally occurring forms and textures inspire temporary installations like “Dessous” (“Underneath”) in which a tree with a double trunk, adorned with some oversized underpants, transforms into a pair of long legs jutting out of the ground. In “Opération Terrestre” (“Land Operation”) the manicured lawn of a stately home has received a wound in need of stitches.
The process of learning how to construct or manipulate different mediums is an important part of Chrétien’s approach. From crocheting industrial twine around a hay bale to repurposing a door into the shape of a giant key fob, she enjoys experimenting with unassuming materials in unexpected locations. She is currently preparing for a new open-air project in France this summer, and you can find more of her projects on her website and Instagram.
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An Abandoned Farmhouse Transformed Into a Life-Size Dollhouse by Heather Benning Reflects on Ideas of Home
A sight familiar to those who travel along the old roads and by-ways of the North American countryside, an abandoned farmhouse is a touching reminder of changes in the landscape and the people who live there. Based in rural Saskatchewan, artist Heather Benning has spent the last several years making work that explores themes related to the impact of large-scale, industrialized agriculture on local communities, family farms, and a sense of home. In 2007, this took the shape of “The Dollhouse,” a monumental artwork constructed within a dilapidated homestead near the tiny town of Sinclair, Manitoba, that had been empty since the 1960s.
Benning removed the north wall of the building and replaced it with large sheets of plexiglass so that viewers could peer inside just like a child’s dollhouse, but it could only be viewed from the exterior—there was no way to venture inside. Vintage furniture and objects were placed throughout vividly painted rooms that could be illuminated at night. Like a stage set eerily devoid of people, she wanted to explore ideas around presence and absence. “By sealing the house and keeping the audience at a remove, viewers were forced to take note of what generates a sense of home. I think ‘The Dollhouse’ aims to speak to our profound desire for re-connection with place,” she shares with Colossal.
The house stood until 2013 when, as part of the original idea for the project, it was burned to the ground. In a short film made in collaboration with filmmaker Chad Galloway, the camera documents the fire as it engulfs the house completely, prompting the viewer to consider the unique grief of losing a home. The artist adds, “This is maybe particularly poignant at a time when we’re increasingly losing our home-places to unfettered industry and climate change.”
Prints of “The Dollhouse” are available for purchase from the Benning’s website, and the film is available to view alongside recent work that continues to explore similar themes. You can also follow her work on Instagram.
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Surreal Photos Convey Psychological States Through Minimal Color-Centric Scenes
Through conceptual shots that focus on color and long lines, photographer and artist Dasha Pears emphasizes the chasm between inner and outer worlds. Her images celebrate myriad psychological states and phenomena sometimes deemed unsightly, capturing their beauty and inherent transcience with a surreal twist. Her focus on the minimal, she says, “is my way of expressing that controlling your mind and creating space is crucial for discovering who you are and who you are not.”
While many of the works deal broadly with inner tension, self-discovery, and perspective, others are grounded in Pears’s own experiences, like her ongoing series titled Synesthetic Letters. Through vibrant compositions, the photographer translates her understanding of synesthesia, a condition that can cause alphabetic characters and numbers to be conveyed as colors. Simple materials like lengths of fabric, tires, and bananas complete the perceptual scenarios, which Pears applies slight digital alterations to post-shoot.
The Helsinki-based photographer sells prints in her shop, and you can find an extensive archive of her emotionally charged works on Instagram.
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Contorted Limbs and Bodies Disrupt the Mundane in Surreal Photographs by Cristina Coral
Photographer Cristina Coral has an eye for subtle alterations that transform seemingly ordinary scenes into surreal images brimming with illusion. Often centered on a solitary woman, the conceptual photographs rely on texture, pattern, and the figures’ contorted poses. A limp hand protrudes from a bush, strawberry locks drape over a brocade couch, and a teacup precariously balances on a pair of feet.
Coral, who is based in Italy but frequently travels to Germany and Slovenia, currently is working on a project based on memory and what’s forgotten. The mixed-media works, some of which she’s shared on Instagram, fuse photographs and textiles in a way that allows portions of the original image to peek through.
If you’re in Paris, Coral’s deftly composed works will be included in a group exhibition at the Decorative Arts Museum this summer. Until then, take a virtual tour of the Sony World Photography Awards exhibition, which includes a few of Coral’s pieces, and explore hundreds of her photographs on her site.
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